After 44 Years, The Beach Boys’ Smile Will See the Light of Day

brian wilson After 44 Years, The Beach Boys Smile Will See the Light of Day  The Beach Boys’ unfinished follow up to their beloved Pet Sounds album, Smile, will be released officially for the first time in November according to Capitol/EMI records. The incomplete sessions have floated around as bootlegs for 44 years. Brian Wilson, who suffered a breakdown during the recording of the album, re-recorded a number of the songs as a solo album in 2004.

That album, also called Smile, represents perhaps the most complete version of what was supposed to be the Beach Boys’ masterpiece, not to mention the apogee of the psychedelic era. Mr. Wilson’s scratchy voice has lost some of its angelic allure, but buried within is the suggestion of a classic collection of songs.

Back in 1966, Mr. Wilson called Smile his “teenage symphony to God.”

The album contains orchestral song cycles about the natural elements intermixed with narrative pieces about the landing on Plymouth Rock with sporadic, more characteristic rock & roll numbers about surfing and small town life thrown in. A number of the songs that were begun during the Smile sessions ended up on other Beach Boys albums—including “Vegetables,” “Heroes and Villains,” “Good Vibrations” and the masterful “Surf’s Up.” The myths surrounding the songs are nearly as intriguing as the compositions themselves: Mr. Wilson, unstable and collapsing under the pressure of the relentless recording sessions, built a sandbox around his piano to help with the writing process; tawdry behavior overwhelmed the band as they recorded “Fire” well into the night; strangest of all is the story that Mr. Wilson, driving in his car on the way to the studio, heard the just-released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the radio, pulled over to the side of the road, and declared after months of work the Smile sessions were over.

Whether Smile is a masterpiece or simply the unfulfilled promise of one of the great American composers is up in the air. The album, as it was meant to be, will forever remain incomplete. That said, the music that is available from Smile is an intriguing glimpse into the mind of—to borrow a phrase from one of the album’s lyrics—a “broken man too tough to cry.” Have a listen to the demo version of “Surf’s Up.” Elvis Costello once compared it to discovering an original recording of Mozart in performance.


  1. lovly brian well done  !

  2. Robert Crowe says:

    Brian has more talent in his little finger than the people who ever stood in his way, INCLUDING certain members of the Beach boys.

  3. We ve  been talking about this record since I was a teenager!!!  Which is a long time agoo.. I ve read that Paul conceived  Sgt Pepper, or at least the production  sound of it , after studying SMILE !!   So chicken or egg ? Anyone know ?

    1. Magicman says:

      No Robert, Pepper was being recorded in late 66 and released April 67. Pet Sounds was the inspiration for Pepper, particularly the melodic “lead” bass lines. Macca had no idea, along with everyone else, what SMiLE sounded like until after Pepper’s release.
      And Wilson’s music is WAY more complicated than The Beatles, with all due respect

      1. Joe Pizzo says:

        Magicman, you are correct except for Macca was really familiar with the
        SMiLE sessions.  He actually was in and contributing on the Vege-Tables sessions.  Everyone
        who was anyone was visiting Brian in those days as he had opened the door to an uncharted course in composition, arrangement and producing, as Leonard Bernstein stated,
        “There is a new song, too complex to get all of first time around. It
        could come only out of the ferment that characterizes today’s pop music
        scene. Brian Wilson, leader of the famous Beach Boys, and one of today’s
        most important musicians, sings his own ‘Surf’s Up.’ Poetic, beautiful
        even in its obscurity, ‘Surf’s Up’ is one aspect of new things happening
        in pop music today. As such, it is a symbol of the change many of these
        young musicians see in our future.”…  Brian biggest influence in
        shuttering this music was Mike Love who only wanted to continue singing
        car/girl/surf songs with his “Don’t F*** with the formula” constant
        digs and complaints about what he was hearing and having to put vocals
        on.  Being family, Brian caved (fell apart) to the internal pressure and became legendary in the “reclusive genius” regard along with Syd Barrett.

        So many over the years have spoken about the influence Brian Wilson had on them – from Macca, to David Crosby, to Neil Young, to David Gilmour, to Eric Clapton and a plethora of newer artists over the decades.

  4. I ve read that Paul conceived the Sgt Pepper sound after studying SMILE .. Or perhaps it was Surf’s Up ? In any case, they do have a lot of points of conversion , save the Beatles writing , which is much more complex

    1. Penguin_Of_Flight says:

      Which writing is more complex? The Beatles’ lyrics or music? Because I think that Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks were on a different musical plane, high above the Beatles, in terms of complexity. That’s not to take anything away from the Beatltes. 

      1. I do believe that it was George Martin that put the “complex”  into most of the
        Pepper LP…but who did Brian REALLY have?….My money is on his late great brother,

    2. Alexander King says:

       The arrangements, bot musically and vocally, were more complex than the Beatles from 1965 to 1972, just listen to any material from that period

    3. Brad says:

       It was “Pet Sounds.”

  5. Bentakespictures says:

    been listening to the bootlegs for years now – interesting to finally see its story in the media finally. one of my stories in american culture. 

  6. Scott says:

    Brian Wilson-The man is a GENIUS! Substance abuse and cigarettes ruined him. 10 years on after this MASTERPIECE at just 33 he never was the same man. He would have otherwise gone on to make more masterpieces. I may be biased but nobody could touch him. The Beatles (Lennon and McCartney) had George Martin. Good Vibrations was ahead of its time. At just 23 years of age, Timeless today. Brian we love you :)

    1. Frankie T. says:

      According to Brian’s bio on wiki, he suffers from a mental illness called schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type.   Substance use is common among people with mental illness; it can exacerbate the symptoms, but also may be a crude form of self medication. 

      Brian’s musical accomplishments stand on their own, of course, but I am in absolute awe of what he has been able to do while coping with an illness that is completely debilitating for many people who suffer from it. 

  7. Jeeples says:

    I can listen to this again and again without getting bored of it.  Brilliant vocals, love the story telling and the music just carries you on . . on a tidal wave.  So looking forward to the release. 

  8. Ramsfanincbus says:

    don’t know if it was the drugs , or Murry’s abuse, and Mike Love’s opposition to Brian evoling “his” music that finally caught up with Brian, whichever, more then likely all three. I cannot wait for this to be released and hear the “Boys” voices to this “missing link” of  Beach Boys music

  9. Dick Poulter says:

    I have heard the 2004 Sm1le recordings as masterful as they are; to at last being able to listen to the (raw) originals embelished by the Beach Boys at that time, suddenly mythology is spirited away and reality takes over; life no longer immited by Art – Rock & Roll

  10. a fan says:

    simply wonderful

  11. Brambledown says:

    He was on his way for a burger at Dolores’ on Santa Monica Blvd in West L.A. when he heard Strawberry Fields Forever and realized that the Beatles had beaten him to “the new sound.”

  12. Jdhom says:

    I believe that it was strawberry fields forever that caused Brian Wilson to pull over while driving, not sgt pepper. I think he abandoned smile in may before sgt pepper even came out.

  13. Coffeebrain says:

    Brian Wilson is a genius.

    Living in CA, we are driving by the Beach Boys Memorial plaque in Hawthorne later today.   Didn’t even know it was there until I saw a local special on the cable channel.

    Nobody can even come close to Brian Wilson.  Can’t wait for the Disney cd release!

  14. Jack Feliu says:

    It captues a moment of time in a persons existance where you become tuned in with the world around you. The wonder of Gods creation. That’s what Surf’s Up says to me.  My favorite Wilson song. Just glad he could capture the moment and put it to music so many years ago and share it with us.

  15. Zyzxyzxy2784 says:

    Why do idiots think that they have to build up Brian at the expense of Mike Love?  Old Mike contributed a hell of a lot to that band, most importantly by keeping it together.